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Terminal and method for efficient use and identification of peripherals having audio lines
7734361 Terminal and method for efficient use and identification of peripherals having audio lines
Patent Drawings:

Inventor: Murawski, et al.
Date Issued: June 8, 2010
Application: 10/669,070
Filed: September 23, 2003
Inventors: Murawski; Mark David (Pittsburgh, PA)
Zoschg; Ryan Anthony (Oakmont, PA)
Logan; James Randall (Pittsburgh, PA)
Byford; Roger Graham (Apollo, PA)
Sweeney; Lawrence R. (Bethel Park, PA)
Zatezalo; Douglas Mark (Allison Park, PA)
Assignee: Vocollect, Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA)
Primary Examiner: Chin; Vivian
Assistant Examiner: Saunders, Jr.; Joseph
Attorney Or Agent: Wood, Heeon & Evans, LLP
U.S. Class: 700/94; 381/74
Field Of Search: 379/265.04; 379/442; 379/444; 379/447; 381/74; 700/94
International Class: G06F 17/00; H04R 1/10
U.S Patent Documents:
Foreign Patent Documents:
Other References:









Abstract: A communication system comprises a terminal configured for being able to communicate with a computer and to operate according to at least one operational parameter. A peripheral device for use with the terminal has a characterizing parameter associated therewith. The terminal is operable for reading the characterizing parameter from the peripheral device when the device is coupled to the terminal. The terminal is further operable for configuring itself to operate according to an operational parameter associated with the characterizing parameter of the peripheral device.
Claim: What is claimed:

1. An apparatus comprising: a portable terminal configured for being worn or carried by a user and operable to facilitate the performance of tasks by the user through speech; the terminal having bi-directional voice capabilities including a user dependent speech recognition functionality for converting user speech to a digital format and a text-to-speech functionality for converting data in a digital format into audio signalsto be played to a user; a peripheral device for coupling to the terminal and having at least one line for directing audio signals to the terminal; the peripheral device configured to generate a characterizing signal in the form of a non-speech datasignal in an audio format and to forward the characterizing signal for a particular user on the at least one audio signal line to the terminal, the user characterizing signal being associated with one or more user-specific operational parameters of theterminal; the terminal configured for receiving the user characterizing signal and then configuring the bi-directional voice capabilities of the terminal using the one or more user-specific operational parameters that are associated with thecharacterizing signal; the user-specific operational parameters including at least one of voice templates for speech recognition and text-to-speech preferences for the user for providing more efficient use of the terminal for the performance of tasks.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the characterizing signal is associated with at least one of a particular use, a particular user, a particular user group and a particular location.

3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the characterizing signal is reflective of a user ID of the peripheral device.

4. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the terminal includes frequency analysis circuitry for processing the characterizing signal.

5. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the characterizing signal is one of a DTMF tone and a PWM stream.

6. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the peripheral device is a headset having a microphone and a microphone line, the characterizing signal being forwarded on the microphone line.

7. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the peripheral device includes a tone generator for generating audio tones to form the characterizing signal.

8. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the peripheral device is configured to automatically forward the characterizing signal to the terminal when it is coupled to the terminal.

9. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the peripheral device has an input, the peripheral device forwarding the characterizing signal to the terminal when the input is engaged.

10. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the peripheral device includes circuitry for generating the characterizing signal, the circuitry being powered by the terminal.

11. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the peripheral device includes circuitry for generating the characterizing signal, the circuitry being powered by a battery source in the peripheral device.

12. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the operational parameters for the terminal are stored in memory, the terminal operable for accessing the memory using the characterizing signal received from the peripheral device.

13. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the operational parameters are stored in a menu, the terminal operable for accessing the menu based upon the characterizing parameter to obtain the one or more user-specific operational parameters.

14. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said terminal is configured for coupling with multiple different peripheral devices for multiple different users, the terminal being configurable to operate with multiple user-specific operational parametersassociated with the characterizing signals of the multiple different peripheral devices.

15. A terminal for communicating with a peripheral device which has a line for sending audio signals, the terminal comprising: a portable body configured for being worn or carried by a user and operable to facilitate the performance of tasks bythe user through speech; circuitry for implementing bi-directional voice capabilities including a user dependent speech recognition functionality for converting user speech to a digital format and a text-to-speech functionality for converting data in adigital format into audio signals to be played to a user; circuitry configured to read a characterizing signal from the audio signal line of the peripheral device, the characterizing signal being in the form of a non-speech data signal in an audioformat and being associated with a particular user and associated with one or more user-specific operational parameters of the terminal; the terminal responsive to configure the bi-directional voice capabilities of the terminal using the one or moreuser-specific operational parameters associated with the characterizing signal; the user-specific operational parameters including at least one of voice templates for speech recognition and text-to-speech preferences for the user for providing moreefficient use of the terminal for the performance of tasks.

16. The terminal of claim 15 wherein the operational parameters for the terminal are stored in memory which is accessed by the terminal using the characterizing signal.

17. The terminal of claim 15 wherein the characterizing signal is reflective of a user ID of the peripheral device.

18. The terminal of claim 15 including frequency analysis circuitry operable for processing the characterizing signal.

19. The terminal of claim 15 wherein the characterizing signal is one of a DTMF tone and a PWM stream.

20. The terminal of claim 15 wherein the peripheral device is a headset having a microphone and a microphone line, the characterizing signal being forwarded on the microphone line.

21. The terminal of claim 15 wherein the circuitry is configured to automatically read the characterizing signal from a peripheral device upon coupling the peripheral device to the terminal.

22. The terminal of claim 15 wherein the characterizing signal is associated with at least one of a particular use, a particular user, a particular user group, and a particular location.

23. A peripheral device for use with a portable terminal having bi-directional voice capabilities and configured for being worn or carried by a user to facilitate the performance of tasks by the user through speech, wherein the voicecapabilities include a user dependent speech recognition functionality for converting user speech to a digital format and a text-to-speech functionality for converting data in a digital format into audio signals to be played to a user, the peripheralcomprising: circuitry and at least one audio signal line for directing audio signals to the terminal; the circuitry configured for having ID information regarding a specific user, the circuitry further configured to generate a characterizing signal inthe form of a non-speech data signal in an audio format that is reflective of the ID information for a particular user and to forward that characterizing signal on the at least one audio signal line to the terminal; the characterizing signal beingassociated with one or more user-specific operational parameters of the terminal that include at least one of voice templates for speech recognition and text-to-speech preferences for the user for configuring the bi-directional voice capabilities of theterminal to provide more efficient use of the terminal for the performance of tasks.

24. The peripheral device of claim 23 wherein the characterizing signal is one of a DTMF tone and a PWM stream.

25. The peripheral device of claim 23 wherein the peripheral device is a headset having a microphone and a microphone line, the characterizing signal being forwarded on the microphone line.

26. The peripheral device of claim 23 wherein the peripheral device includes a tone generator for generating audio tones to form the characterizing signal.

27. The peripheral device of claim 23 wherein the peripheral device is operable to automatically forward the characterizing signal to the terminal when it is coupled to the terminal.

28. The peripheral device of claim 23 wherein the peripheral device has an input, the peripheral device forwarding the characterizing signal to the terminal when the input is engaged.

29. The peripheral device of claim 23 wherein the circuitry is powered by the terminal.

30. The peripheral device of claim 23 wherein the circuitry is powered by a battery source in the peripheral device.

31. The peripheral device of claim 23 wherein the characterizing signal is reflective of at least one of a particular user group or a particular location.

32. A method for interfacing between a peripheral device and a portable terminal having bi-directional voice capabilities and configured for being worn or carried by a user to facilitate the performance of tasks by the user through speech, thevoice capabilities including a user dependent speech recognition functionality for converting user speech to a digital format and a text-to-speech functionality for converting data in a digital format into audio signals to be played to a user, the methodcomprising: with the peripheral device having at least one audio signal line for directing audio signals to the terminal, generating a characterizing signal in the form of a non-speech data signal in an audio format that is reflective of ID informationfor a particular user and forwarding the characterizing signal for a particular user to the terminal on the at least one audio signal line; associating the characterizing signal with one or more user-specific operational parameters of the terminal; configuring the bi-directional voice capabilities of the terminal using the one or more user-specific operational parameters that are associated with the characterizing signal; the user-specific operational parameters including at least one of voicetemplates for speech recognition and text-to-speech preferences for the user for providing more efficient use of the terminal for the performance of tasks.

33. The method of claim 32 wherein the characterizing signal is associated with at least one of a particular use, a particular user, a particular user group and a particular location.

34. The method of claim 32 wherein the characterizing signal is reflective of a user ID of the peripheral device.

35. The method of claim 32 wherein the characterizing signal is an audio signal.

36. The method of claim 32 wherein the terminal includes frequency analysis circuitry operable for processing the characterizing signal.

37. The method of claim 32 wherein the characterizing signal is one of a DTMF tone and a PWM stream.

38. The method of claim 32 wherein the peripheral device is a headset having a microphone and a microphone line and further comprising forwarding the characterizing signal on the microphone line.

39. The method of claim 32 further comprising generating audio tones with a tone generator to form the characterizing signal.

40. The method of claim 32 further comprising automatically forwarding the characterizing signal to the terminal when the peripheral it is coupled to the terminal.

41. The method of claim 32 wherein the peripheral device has an input, the method further comprising forwarding the characterizing signal to the terminal when the input is engaged.

42. The method of claim 40 wherein the operational parameters for the terminal are stored in memory, further comprising accessing the memory using the characterizing signal.

43. The method of claim 32 wherein the operational parameters are in a menu, further comprising accessing the menu based upon the characterizing parameter.
Description: FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to computer terminals and peripherals and more specifically to wearable, mobile and/or portable computer terminals with headsets for use in speech recognition systems.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Wearable, mobile and/or portable computer terminals are used for a wide variety of tasks. Such terminals allow workers using them to have mobility, while providing the worker with desirable computing and data-processing functions. Furthermore,various terminals provide a communication link to a larger, more centralized computer system. Such terminals are being implemented for an ever-increasing number of tasks.

One illustrative example of a specific use for a wearable/mobile/portable terminal is inventory management. Computerized inventory management systems are used in inventory-driven industries for various tasks, such as food and retail productdistribution, manufacturing, and quality control. An overall integrated management system involves a combination of a central computer system for tracking and management, and the people who use and interface with the computer system in the form of orderfillers, pickers and other workers. The workers handle the manual aspects of the integrated system.

To provide an interface between the central computer system and the workers, wearable/mobile computers or terminals are used by the workers as they complete their numerous tasks. Such wearable terminals, for example, pull information directlyfrom the central system and translate the information into voice or text commands for the workers. Through wireless RF networks, the commands to and responses from the workers are communicated between the system and the terminals. To communicate in avoice-driven system, for example, the worker wears a headset which is coupled to his wearable terminal. Through the headset, the workers are able to receive voice instructions, ask questions, report the progress of their tasks, and report workingconditions, such as inventory shortages, for example. Using such terminals, the work is done virtually hands-free without equipment to juggle or paperwork to carry around.

In addition to headsets, other peripherals are often coupled to the terminals depending upon the tasks to be performed. For example, bar code readers and other scanners may be utilized alone or in combination with a headset to communicate backand forth with the system.

An illustrative example of a job through a system utilizing wearable and/or portable terminals having voice capabilities may involve initially welcoming the worker to the system and defining a particular task or order, for example, a load to befilled for a certain truck to depart from a warehouse. The worker may then answer with a particular area (e.g., freezer) that they will be working in for that order. The system then vocally directs the worker to a particular aisle and bin to pick aparticular quantity of an item. The worker then vocally confirms their location and the amount of items that are picked. The system may then direct them to a loading dock or bay for a particular truck to receive the order. As may be appreciated,various different scenarios might be played out through a system using a wearable terminal and attached peripherals.

In its operation, a wearable terminal utilizes operational software which controls how it performs for the worker or user and how it interfaces with the central system. Such terminal software often has a large set of parameters and featureswhich must be controlled on a per-user basis. Those parameters include, for example, voice templates, user-specific voice models, volume preferences, text-to-text speech preferences, etc. Therefore, each worker who is to wear and use a particularterminal will have to traverse through a series of sometimes complex and cumbersome menu options to select the desired user configuration. Such an exercise is usually error prone and is certainly time consuming and therefore inefficient. Furthermore,when the terminal is used by another worker on a different shift, it will be configured for that worker and will then have to be re-configured for the original worker, assuming that they even get their original terminal back for use.

It is also desirable to ensure that an approved headset is being used. At many sites, the workers are required to maintain their own headsets, and possibly any other personal peripherals. This is done for several reasons. One of those reasonsis to encourage careful use and maintenance of the hardware and peripherals by assigning individual responsibility to the worker. Another reason, particularly in the case of the headset, is to promote sanitary hygiene practices.

There is thus a need to improve the efficiency of the workers who utilize wearable and/or portable terminals to interface with a central system. There is further a need to improve customization of peripherals used by specific users. Specifically, it is desirable to reduce the errors and time associated with configuring terminal equipment for each specific worker. It is also desirable to further improve the management, tracking and maintenance of such terminal equipment.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate embodiments of the invention and, together with a general description of the invention given above and the detailed description givenbelow, serve to explain the invention.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a worker using a terminal and peripherals in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a schematic block diagram of a system incorporating the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a schematic block diagram of another embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

Referring to FIG. 1, there is shown, in use, a portable and/or wearable terminal or computer 10 and peripheral device 16 which incorporates an embodiment of the present invention. The portable terminal may be a wearable device, which may be wornby a worker 11, such as on a belt 14 as shown. This allows hands-free use of the terminal. Of course, the terminal might also be manually carried or otherwise transported. The use of the term "terminal" herein is not limited and may include anycomputer, device, machine, or system which is used to perform a specific task, and which is used in conjunction with one or more peripheral devices.

In one exemplary and illustrative use, such portable computer devices or wearable terminals 10 may be used in inventory management and warehouse environments where workers and other users of the terminal are required to: retrieve various itemswithin the warehouse to fill an order, restock shelves, and generally manage and move inventory. Of course, other uses of the terminal, peripherals and invention described herein are contemplated, and the invention is not limited to inventory managementsystems. The portable terminal 10 permits the worker 11 to communicate with one or more central computers (see FIG. 3) which are part of a larger inventory management system for sending and receiving information regarding the activities and tasks to beperformed by the worker. The central computer 90 or computers may run one or more system software packages for inventory and warehouse management.

To provide communication between terminal 10 and a central computer 90 or computers, generally one or more peripheral devices or peripherals, such as a headset 16, are coupled to terminal 10. Headset 16 has an earpiece 17 and microphone 70, andis coupled to the terminal by a cord 18 and plug 12 wireless link 19. The headset 16 is worn on the head of the worker and allows hands-free operation and movement through a warehouse or other facility.

Alternatively, other peripherals might be used with the terminal 10, but are not specifically shown in FIG. 1. For example, a bar code reader might be utilized as well as some other scanner device or a printer. Also, when new workers areacclimated to the system, an audio training device might be assigned to the new worker and utilized with the terminal. Various other suitable devices might also be utilized for providing an interface between the worker 11, the terminal 10, the centralcomputer 90, and the inventory and products being moved and managed. Therefore, the present invention and its applicability is not limited only to a headset or the peripherals described and noted herein and may be used with other peripherals. Onesuitable terminal for incorporating the invention is the Talkman.sup.7 product available from Vocollect of Pittsburgh, Pa.

As noted above, it may be desirable to assign one or more peripherals to a specific worker to be maintained and kept by that worker, for various reasons, such as personal responsibility and hygiene, to name a few. In accordance with one aspectof the present invention, a characterizing parameter, such as a use, location, user group, user or other characterizing signal, is associated with one or more peripherals and coupled to the terminal, and the characterizing parameter for a peripheral isread by the terminal. Based upon the characterizing parameter, the terminal associates one or more operational parameters with the characterizing parameter for the peripheral and the terminal configures itself and operates according to those parameters. That is, the peripheral automatically or otherwise determines how the terminal is configured to operate. As further discussed herein below, the characterizing parameter might be associated with a chip included in the peripheral, such as in headset 16. Upon reading the code from the chip, the terminal, in one example, configures itself so that it operates in the desired way for the worker who owns and/or uses the specific peripheral or who is associated with that characterizing code or parameter.

In other embodiments, the characterizing parameter might be associated with a bar code or an RF identification or RFID. The characterizing parameter may be associated with a specific worker or user, or a group of users or workers, for example. The characterizing parameter might also be associated with a specific use or a location. The transfer of the characterizing parameter occurs automatically upon coupling the peripheral with the terminal 10 in one embodiment and, therefore, reduces theerror and time associated with the worker specifically and manually or otherwise configuring the terminal every time it is used. In that way, it improves the efficiency of the worker and helps to improve upon the management and maintenance of equipmentused in warehouse and inventory management tasks.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of one exemplary embodiment utilizing the invention. Specifically, the terminal 10 for communicating with a system, such as an inventory management system, or any other system with which a worker might need tocommunicate, comprises a processor circuit or processor 40 for controlling the operation of the terminal. As may be appreciated by a person of ordinary skill in the art, such processors operate according to an operating system, which is asoftware-implemented series of instructions. The processor may also run one or more application programs. In one embodiment of the invention, a processor, such as an Intel SA-1110, might be utilized as the main processor and coupled to a suitablecompanion circuit or companion chip 42 by appropriate lines 44. One suitable companion circuit might be an SA-1111, also available from Intel. The processor 40, and any companion circuit, are coupled to appropriate memory, such as flash memory 46 andrandom access memory (SDRAM) 48. For example, a 128 Megabit Strataflash memory component might be utilized for flash memory 46 while one or more 128 Megabit SDRAM chips might be utilized for the random access memory 48. The processor and companion chip40, 42, are coupled to the memory 46, 48 through appropriate busses, such as 32 bit parallel address bus 50 and data bus 52.

To provide wireless communication between the wearable terminal 10 and central computer 90, the terminal 10 also utilizes a PC card slot 54, so as to provide a wireless ethernet connection, such as an IEEE 802.11 wireless standard. RFcommunication cards 56 from various vendors might be coupled with the PCMCIA slot 54 to provide communication between terminal 10 and the central computer 90, depending on the hardware required for the wireless RF connection.

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, a peripheral coupled to terminal 10 might be a headset 16 which provides hands-free voice communication between the worker 11 and the central computer of a warehouse management system. Tothat end, digital information has to be converted to an audio format, and vice versa, to provide the communication between the system and a worker. For example, in a typical system, the terminal 10 would receive digital instructions from the centralcomputer 90 and will convert those instructions to audio to be heard by a worker 11. The worker 11 will then reply, in a spoken language, and the audio reply will be converted to a useable digital format to be transferred back to the central computer ofthe system for use in tracking inventory and order filling. It will be appreciated that herein, reference is made to a central computer 90 of a system (see FIG. 3). However, a system might utilize various different computers, and the present inventionis not limited to a specific system or computer with which a terminal 10 incorporating the invention may be utilized.

For conversion between digital and analog audio, a CODEC 60 is utilized, and is coupled through an appropriate serial interface 62 to one or both of the processors 40, 42. For example, in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2, the audio CODEC 60is coupled through serial interface 62 to the companion processor 42. One suitable audio circuit, for example, might be a UDA 1341 audio CODEC available from Philips.

Referring to FIG. 2, a peripheral, such as a headset 64, is coupled with the audio CODEC 60 for providing audio input/output, e.g., to the terminal from the worker, and to the worker from the terminal. Other peripherals, such as a bar codereader 66, a scanner 68, a training device 70 or a printer 71 might be coupled to an appropriate serial interface of the terminal 10, and specifically to a serial interface 73 of processor 40. The various peripherals provide a data collecting andcommunicating interface between the terminal 10, the worker 11, the computer 90 and the overall environment and inventory. That is, the terminal 10 may collect inventory, stocking, and order filling information through a headset, bar code or scanner,and may also provide instructions through those various peripherals and/or through a printer. The training device 70 might be utilized with a new worker to coach them through training the terminal and the system with their voice commands.

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, a peripheral 64, 66, 68, 70, 71 has a defined characterizing parameter associated therewith to be read by the terminal circuitry, such as processors 40, 42, and utilized to define theoperation of the terminal 10. Specifically, the processors 40, 42 control the operation of the terminal, such as through the execution of the operating system and application programs. The operating system software and application software utilized bythe terminal, such as application/operating software stored in the processor memory or in separate memory 46, 48, is utilized to define various operational parameters for the terminal. For example, the volume on the terminal may be adjusted up or downto help the worker 11 communicate, such as in a noisy environment. Furthermore, voice templates may be utilized for each specific user. Voice templates provide a fingerprint of the user's voice to be recognized by the terminal. Still further,text-to-speech preferences may be an operational parameter for the terminal for providing the necessary terminal settings which address the pitch, speed, gender, etc. of the voice commands through the terminal. Still other operational parameters for theterminal and for specific peripherals are defined by the terminal and may be implemented and adjusted by a worker.

As noted above, such operational parameters for configuring the terminal may be associated with a menu through which a worker will progress. Generally, the terminal will include input/output devices, such as buttons, screens, cursors, readouts,etc., for allowing a worker to access a menu and program their specific terminal for the desirable settings and operational parameters which they would like to use. Traditionally, a worker has had to progress through a series of complex and cumbersomemenu options to select the proper configuration and operational parameters. Such manual manipulation is error prone and time consuming.

As used herein, the term "operational parameters" is used to refer to the various different configurations, settings, parameters, menus, preferences, selections, etc. under which or by which the terminal may operate. Certain of the operationalparameters may be those traditionally selectable by a worker through menus. However, other such operational parameters which might be associated with a characterizing parameter of the invention, might be only selectable upon use of a certain peripheral.

In one aspect of the present invention, the peripherals include defined characterizing parameters which may be read or otherwise determined by one or more of the processor components 40, 42, when a peripheral is coupled to the terminal. In oneembodiment, such a determination of the characterizing parameter is made automatically upon coupling the peripheral to the terminal. Alternatively, a worker might be prompted to initiate such a determination when the peripheral and terminal are coupled. The processor or other terminal circuitry is further operable for associating a desired operational parameter, or multiple operational parameters, with the characterizing parameter of the peripheral and then configuring the terminal to operate accordingto those associated operational parameters. That is, the processor circuits 40, 42 will configure the terminal with the desired settings, configurations and other operational parameters that are desired by or associated with the worker by the couplingof a peripheral to the terminal. In that sense, the characterizing parameter is associated with the user and the user's preferences or the specific preferences that might be assigned to the user. In a general sense, the use characterizing parameter isassociated with how and/or by whom the terminal is to be used. As discussed below, such criteria may be defined by or associated with a specific user, a group of users or a location or area of a facility, for example. Therefore, whenever a user coupleshis peripheral to terminal 10, that terminal will reconfigure itself so that it operates according to the way that the specific user desires or according to the way that the terminal should be configured based on other user criteria, as discussed below. Subsequently, if another worker utilizes the same terminal and plugs a specific peripheral into the terminal, the terminal will again reconfigure itself based upon the use characterizing parameters and user criteria defined by the specific peripheralcoupled thereto. As such, the present invention avoids the cumbersome and time consuming task of requiring each new user to manually travel through the complex menu options to configure the terminal as desired. Rather, based upon an initialconfiguration and associated operational parameters that are stored and associated with respect to a characterizing parameter, the desired configuration is achieved automatically by coupling a peripheral with the terminal.

In one embodiment of the invention, as discussed herein, a characterizing parameter for a peripheral is associated with user criteria for a specific worker or user. In that way, upon reading the characterizing parameter of the peripheral, theterminal is configured based upon that specific user's criteria and personal preferences. Alternatively, the terminal might be configured, not according to a specific user's criteria or personal preferences, but according to associated user criteriaselected by the system. That is, all the peripherals for a group of users which may be working in a certain area or section of a facility may require that the terminals be configured generally with the same user criteria for the user group and with theassociated desired operational parameters, but not necessarily the operational parameters and criteria desired by an individual user. In that way, parameters might be associated with the criteria for a group of users rather than individuals. The groupmight be defined by various user criteria, such as their location and/or a job within a warehouse or other facility.

In another embodiment, the terminal might be configured based on a specific use of the terminal and not on the preferences of a user.

Alternatively, a peripheral might not be assigned to one or more individual users, but rather might be associated with a particular area in the warehouse or some other particular criteria. That is, the user criteria is location specific. When aterminal is utilized with such a peripheral and the terminal reads the characterizing parameter of the peripheral, the terminal will be configured for that specific facility area or for the specific user criteria associated with the characterizingparameter. Therefore, the characterizing parameter aspect of the present invention might be associated with a specific use, with user criteria for an individual worker and their individual preferences, with a group of workers and their individual orselective preferences for the group, with the location of the terminals or some other group or subset criteria, such that the terminals will be readily and/or automatically configured when specific peripherals having characterizing parameters are coupledthereto.

In one embodiment of the invention, the characterizing parameter for a peripheral is defined by a device or component, such as a chip. Upon coupling the peripheral to the terminal, the processor or processors 40, 42 read the individual code ofthe chip, which defines its characterizing parameter. One or more operational parameters are associated with that specific peripheral code and associated characterizing parameter and the user or other criteria associated with the characterizingparameter. The association of the operation parameter with the characterizing parameter may be achieved in various different ways. For example, utilizing the characterizing parameter which is received or read from the peripheral, a look-up table mightprovide the desired operational parameters for reconfiguring the terminal according to specific criteria. As such, the terminal may have stored in memory the operational parameters associated with a number of characterizing parameters and specificperipherals corresponding to the workers who might use the terminal or other location. To that end, when the terminal is originally configured with a peripheral plugged into or coupled with the terminal, the original parameters might be saved and storedbased on the characterizing parameter, and thereby associated with the characterizing parameter of the peripheral. Alternatively, the operational parameters might be stored in one or more central computers associated with the system, and may bedownloaded to the terminal upon the terminal communicating with those computers. In that way, the characterizing parameter of the peripheral is read by the terminal and is passed through the terminal to the system computers wherein the desiredconfiguration or operational parameters are retrieved that are associated with that characterizing parameter.

Referring again to FIG. 2, a headset 64 is shown having a characterizing or configuring chip or component 74 therein or associated therewith. As discussed below, the component 74 might also represent a device that interfaces with the terminal toprovide characterizing parameters. In the scenario of a chip, dedicated lines 75 couple the chip to processor 42 so that the code of the headset 64 (i.e., characterizing parameter) may be read. When the headset 64, and particularly the cord 18associated with the headset, is coupled to terminal 10, the processor 42 reads the use characterizing code or parameter associated with the headset. Based upon the characterizing parameter, the processor circuits 40, 42 progress through the selectablefeatures of the system for configuring the terminal into the configuration associated with the characterizing parameters, such as that desired by the particular worker who owns the headset 64 or other peripheral, for example. The various operationalparameters associated with the characterizing parameter might be retrieved from memory 46, 48 or other memory.

Similarly, a bar code reader 66 also includes a chip 76 or other component that defines the characterizing parameter for that peripheral. Upon coupling the peripheral, through a serial interface 62, 73 to one of the processors 40, 42, thecharacterizing parameter is read by the terminal, such as by the processor(s), and the processor(s) are further operable for associating one or more operational parameters with the characterizing parameter of the peripheral. Generally, the operationalparameters for configuration of the terminal for the bar code reader will be different from the operational parameters for configuration of the terminal for the headset. That is, the terminal 10 handles multiple different sets of operational parametersand will select them based upon the peripheral which is coupled thereto. Different peripherals have different operational parameters or sets of operational parameters. For example, a bar code reader 66, which does not generally interface between thecentral computer and the worker with voice commands, will not require configuration of voice parameters as would a headset 64.

Other peripherals may be utilized, and the present invention is not limited to the exemplary embodiments disclosed herein. For example, a scanner 68 includes a chip or component 78 that defines its characterizing parameter. Upon coupling thescanner to processor 40 through a serial interface 73, the characterizing parameter is determined and associated with one or more operational parameters for the scanner 68. Likewise, a training device 70 with a chip or component 85 is coupled to theprocessor 40 which reads the chip 85 for the training device 70 and adjusts the configuration of the terminal and its operation accordingly. Still further, a printer 71 with chip or component 81 might also be coupled to processor 40. In that way, thepresent invention may handle multiple peripherals at one time and can provide the desired operational parameters and operational configuration for each of those peripherals without requiring the worker to slowly go through each available menu for aperipheral. This results in significant time savings and eliminates errors associated with such programming. A worker will not usually require that all available peripherals be associated with the terminal at once.

In another embodiment of the invention, peripherals such as bar code reader 66, or scanner 68, might define a characterizing parameter and an operational parameter for the terminal by reading or scanning a particular code, and then transferringthat to the terminal through their respective components 76, 78. For example, a bar code reader might read a bar code that would then be transferred to the terminal to tell the terminal how to configure itself.

In another embodiment of the invention, the component, such as component 74, utilized by a peripheral such as a headset 64, might be an RF identification, or RFID wherein the headset 10 would then have the capability, such as an RF readerincorporated into the processing circuitry of the headset to read the RFID. In that way, a dedicated line would not be necessary for transferring a characterizing parameter to the terminal 10. Rather, such interfacing would be automatic when theperipheral and the terminal are brought into proximity with each other.

The present invention allows any number of peripherals to be associated with a user, a particular use, a location, a group of users, etc., and then to configure a specific terminal as desired to adapt to one of those "people groups" or othercriteria.

In another aspect of the present invention, the various peripherals and their location may be tracked based upon the characterizing parameter associated with each of the peripherals. Referring to FIG. 3, each of the various terminals 80, 82 and84 interface with one or more central computers 90, such as through wireless communication signals 88. Associated with the terminals might be various peripherals P.sub.1, P.sub.2, P.sub.3. Upon coupling one or more of the peripherals to a terminal80-84, the specific characterizing parameter associated with the peripheral may be forwarded to central computer 90. The central computer 90 is then operable for tracking the existence and use of the peripheral within the system, and its specificlocation as associated with a terminal 80-84. The central computer 86 may then provide inventory control for the peripherals, such as for maintenance purposes, to reduce theft, and for efficient use of the peripheral resources. For example, one workermay have a bar code reader, but may be located in a particular area of the warehouse that may be filling an order which does not require a bar code reader. In that way, the central computer might be utilized to direct another worker to the location ofthe bar code reader if they need it. Alternatively, the central computer might be utilized to communicate to the worker who has the bar code reader that someone else needs it. As discussed herein, the term characterizing parameter is utilized togenerally designate the identification information provided to a terminal or computer by a chip or other component or device, and associated with a specific peripheral. In the present invention, the name of a worker might be associated with a terminalthey are using. Therefore the worker is associated with the various peripherals coupled to the terminal based on the characterizing parameters read by the terminal and transferred to the central computer. In that way, the characterizing parameters ofthe various peripherals might be utilized to instruct the workers, by name, to pass peripherals back and forth to each other, as they are needed.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, power sources such as batteries 72 also have specific characterizing parameters 87 which are read by the terminal, specifically a terminal processor circuits 40, 42. The operationalparameters of the terminal associated with power may then be configured as desired for the specific battery plugged into the terminal and associated with the characterizing parameter that is read. That is, whenever a specific battery is attached to theterminal, the operational software of the terminal may automatically adjust. In one embodiment, it is anticipated that the association of operational parameters with a characterizing parameter will occur automatically upon coupling a peripheral with aterminal. However, as a further step, it might be required that the worker actually requests such reconfiguration based upon one or more simple inputs. That is, the new configuration would not occur automatically.

With respect to battery performance and battery management, the operational software of the terminal or the central computer could track a history of battery performance for each battery which is used with the terminal. The terminal softwarecould adapt its voltage/time characteristic curve for detecting a low battery situation in order to notify the worker that a new battery will be required. Furthermore, utilizing the characterizing parameter associated with a battery, further operationalcharacteristics, rather than just low battery voltage monitoring, may be achieved. For example, in one embodiment, the software will monitor the life of a battery between its fully charged state and the low battery state using voltage monitor 83 (FIG.2). As batteries deteriorate, one symptom is that they do not hold a sufficient charge as long and thus are depleted more rapidly (shorter life). With the present invention, such an occurrence may be detected so that a battery (defined by itscharacterizing parameter) may be taken completely out of circulation and disposed of, rather than having it go through additional wasteful re-charge cycles. Again, as noted above with respect to FIG. 3, not only might the terminal notify a workerwearing the specific terminal, but also central computer 90 might receive such information as well so that all the batteries used within the system might be monitored for replacement and re-charging.

The present invention provides various advantages, as noted above, and is particularly useful when utilized with a computer or terminal that incorporates speech recognition. It is desirable that the terminal be able to identify a peripheral suchas a headset or a microphone that is being used to enter the speech. For example, potential benefits provided by the invention with respect to headset peripherals and speech recognition, include identifying the user, identifying the type of headsetused, and ensuring that an appropriate approved headset is being utilized with the terminal. Such information may be used to characterize the use of the terminal and to configure it for a specific headset or user, or a specific group of users orlocation. Specifically, when the user is identified, user-specific voice modules can be loaded automatically. Alternatively, generic voice models can be adapted to a specific user. When the type of headset is identified, speech recognizer algorithmsmay be modified accordingly. Additionally, the use characterizing codes or signals provided by the headset may be used to ensure that the headset is approved for use with the specific terminal.

In accordance with another embodiment of the invention specifically directed to a peripheral that provides audio signals, such as a headset, the peripheral is operable to forward a characterizing signal such as an I.D. code, or other code, onthe dedicated and existing lines used for audio signals, rather than requiring a separate data line to a processor for such information. Therefore, such an embodiment of the invention may be utilized for any terminal that utilizes a headset connectorand does not require a dedicated data line.

Specifically referring to FIG. 4, a terminal 10 and a peripheral 64 are shown coupled together in accordance with the principles of the present invention. The peripheral 64 is indicated as a headset, although other peripherals that may alreadyhave existing audio lines or other lines for sending signals, such as audio signals, to the terminal may also be utilized in accordance with the invention.

Referring to FIG. 4, the peripheral 64, such as a headset, utilizes one or more lines 100 for directing audio signals between the terminal 10 and the headset 64. These audio signals are usually the voice or speech signals between the headset andthe terminal/central computer for the user. Specifically, when the user speaks, the microphone of the headset captures the speech and forwards it to the terminal/central computer, and vice versa for computer generated commands. In accordance with oneaspect of the invention, in response to some trigger event, the peripheral such as headset 64, is operable to forward a characterizing signal on one or more of the audio lines 100. The terminal then associates an operational parameter for the terminalwith the characterizing signal of the peripheral device, as discussed above. For example, the characterizing signal might be an identification, or I.D. signal of some kind. The characterizing signal will have useful information therein for use by theterminal. The operational parameters associated with operation of the terminal and associated with the use characterizing I.D. signal may include various different parameters, such as those related to user-specific voice models or generic voice models,or a modification of speech recognizer algorithms for a specific headset.

In accordance with the invention, the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4 eliminates the need for separate data lines like lines 75 between the peripheral and the terminal. Rather, the peripheral, such as headset 64, uses lines 100 for passing bothvoice information and the characterizing signal, such as an I.D. signal. As such, the invention is usable with a wide range of terminals which do not have dedicated data inputs.

To that end, in one embodiment of the invention, the lines 100 may represent the audio lines from a microphone of the headset. The headset incorporate appropriate circuitry for generating the characterizing signal, and the terminal 10 utilizescircuitry that is operable for processing the characterizing signal. In one example, the characterizing signal, or I.D. signal, may be an audio signal. To that end, the headset may include a sound generating chip, such as a DTMF tone generator, as isused in telephones. The output of the sound generating chip in the headset is appropriately connected to the headset microphone line 100 in such a way that the headset can "beep" a serial number, I.D., or some other "use characterizing" signal down themicrophone line to be received by the terminal 10. The terminal then utilizes frequency analysis circuitry and any other appropriate frequency analysis techniques for processing the I.D. signal or other characterizing signal from the headset. Forexample, in one embodiment, speech recognition software that may reside in the processor circuit 40 or the companion circuit 42, may be configured for decoding the serial number or the I.D. number. The I.D. may be associated with a specific user orheadset owner, or a group of users or a location or some other criteria. The terminal may then load specific voice patterns associated with the owner of the headset. Alternatively, the terminal may be configured some other way for the specific headsetor the specific user.

In an alternative embodiment of the invention, a non-tone or non-audio signal, such as a PWM stream, or pulse width modulation stream may be utilized. The processing circuitry of the terminal would then be configured to decode the PWM stream. In such a case, the processing circuitry for decoding or reading the characterizing signal may be simplified.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, the signal may be sent from the headset to the terminal based upon a specific trigger event. In one embodiment, the headset 64 may be configured to automatically forward the signal tothe terminal when it is coupled to the terminal, such as when the microphone line is plugged into the socket in the terminal. Alternatively, the trigger event might be when the terminal 10 or other computer powers up. To that end, the signal generatingcircuitry of the headset could potentially be powered using the microphone bias current that is typically supplied by the terminal on lines 100. In such a case, a capacitor, such as an ultra-capacitor might be utilized to manage the temporary currentsurge when the headset is beeping. Alternatively, a long life battery might be utilized for powering the appropriate circuitry to generate the signal from the headset to the terminal. In one embodiment, the headset might generate an I.D. signal inresponse to detecting bias voltage on the microphone line 100. Alternatively, the headset may have an input 102, such as a button. When the user presses the button, the headset sends the signal on lines 100.

As noted above, various operational parameters might be stored in memory, and/or be selected from a group of various parameters based on the characterizing signal.

In another aspect of the present invention, it may be desirable to configure the operational parameters and the software terminal based upon a system selected preference, rather than that desired by a particular worker. That is, it may bedesirable for consistency within the system to insure that, for certain peripherals, each of the terminals will operate the same. The present invention, utilizing an characterizing parameter associated with each peripheral, such as through a chip orother component, will allow the central computer 90 to control the various terminals 80, 82 and 84 as they are configured based upon the system user preference or criteria, rather than a specific user preference or criteria.

Although exemplary embodiments are discussed with a single code, a peripheral might include multiple use characterizing codes which are used to define multiple characterizing parameters. Such multiple parameters could then be used for accessingor implementing multiple sets of operational parameters. Therefore, the present invention may be tailored to provide the desired association of one or more sets of operational parameters with a specific peripheral to configure the terminal.

Therefore, the present invention improves the efficiency of the workers and their interface with a central system and reduces the error and time associated with configuring specific terminal equipment for a worker, based upon the peripherals usedby that worker. Furthermore, the management, tracking and maintenance of equipment, such as peripherals, within a system is improved. And still further, consistency throughout the system may be improved.

While the present invention has been illustrated by the description of the various embodiments thereof, and while the embodiments have been described in considerable detail, it is not intended to restrict or in any way limit the scope of theappended claims to such detail. Additional advantages and modifications will readily appear to those skilled in the art. The invention in its broader aspects is therefore not limited to the specific details, representative apparatus and methods andillustrative examples shown and described. Accordingly, departures may be made from such details without departing from the scope or spirit of Applicant's general inventive concept.

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